David Strait is not only an accomplished educator but a man with a passion to serve the senior citizen community at Manteca’s retirement communities by sitting at a keyboard during the dinner hour and playing.
Strait says it’s nothing special – just background dinner music. Those having dinner while he is playing the piano see it differently. They appreciate his gift of music to end their day and they say so and give of their applause.
Strait is a self-taught pianist who began entertaining the seniors following the death of his mother a number of years ago, according to one member of his fan club as he played Tuesday night at Prestige Senior Living. He spent most of his teaching at Sequoia School as well as teaching for a period at Lincoln School.
It was evident that Strait was resisting any recognition as he slipped out the front door of the retirement center shortly after saying his goodbyes to a group of ladies at a nearby table. He was very hesitant about a story and pictures featuring him, saying, “It’s not about me.” But after it was explained that his passion might serve as a catalyst to bring other musicians forward for the benefit of the seniors he reluctantly agreed.
Strait knew many of the residents as they have attended St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Manteca for years.
Ruth Zucchi offered her personal appreciation of their pianist.
“I love David and Carol,” Zucchi said. “They go to my church. You know he goes to many nursing homes and to the Expressions Alzheimer’s unit here. The couple does a lot of volunteering.”
Carol Strait is also a retired teacher and volunteers much of her time at Doctors Hospital.
Heddy Albert – a longtime member of the Swiss Club in Ripon – said it’s very nice that Strait entertains every Tuesday.
“I first knew him when I was working as the secretary at New Haven School and he was teaching at Sequoia School, Albert said. “It’s good music – very soothing – from 4:30 to 5:30 every week.”
Edna People sitting with a group of ladies said, “I enjoy the music. He is a very nice man and very friendly. He is very modest, too.”
Mike Cortese, a musician in his own right, complemented Strait.
“Oh, he’s excellent, beautiful music, best I’ve heard,” Cortese said.
Cortese said he plays clarinet and harmonica and includes a little bee-bop. And, on top of that he said he is a retired probation officer – one of the few outnumbered men in the building.
Pat Johnson, who played piano as a child, said the music is very good – a little louder than it was last year. For those with hearing problems, that is probably a good thing.
Pat’s husband Dale, a retired Manteca photographer, said, “I think he plays enjoyable music – many oldies – and we are fortunate to have him here with us on Tuesday nights. Regardless of where we are sitting, he will come over and shake my hand and say a word or two.”
Johnson went on to say that the piano, that had been a gift of Eileen Williams from his church, is dormant 99 percent of the time until Strait comes through the door. Guests of relatives staying at Prestige will sometimes sit down and play a couple of tunes and kids play chopsticks on the keyboard.
Loretta Kowalski joined in the tributes to Strait adding, “It is so beautiful and he plays so good. He even goes back to Expressions Alzheimer’s unit and plays for them.”
Strait noted that playing for those with serious dementia is very rewarding for him when he sees smiles on their faces and they are moving with the music. Research has noted that music and song has often brought those with memory fading dementia out of their fog.
Strait is devoted to making that happen in Manteca.